As part of its Slow Tech program, Ada X welcomes artist Liane Décary-Chen in residence from January 12 to February 22, 2021.
“By feeding increasing amounts of personal data to the platforms that govern our digital selves, we enable algorithms outside of our control to build us in their image. What futures might be possible if we refused this extraction, designing algorithms rooted in our personal and collective aspirations?
Liane Décary-Chen’s ‘Slow Tech’ residency project, Gentle Bot Seeks Same, explores these futures by turning the logics of cybernetics towards herself, mapping out the structure of an AI system rooted in her own subjectivity. Appropriating the visual language of the Von Neumann model – an early computer architecture comprising of a processing unit, control unit, storage, memory and input/output mechanisms – Décary-Chen transposes the idiosyncrasies of her ‘meatspace’ experience into an agent capable of traversing cyberspace on its own terms. Rather than aiming to create a glossy, self-contained AI twin, she will prioritize a methodology of messiness, leaning into the impossibilities of distilling oneself into an array of ones and zeroes.
The transmission of digital literacy skills is central to Décary-Chen’s expanded practice, and she will develop educational materials that enable her communities to peer inside the blackbox of machine learning. Through drawings, digital zines, code snippets and social media performances, the circuitous process of building an AI system through her own self-excavation will be laid bare. Continuing beyond the scope of the residency, Gentle Bot Seeks Same will see Décary-Chen drawing from her experience in interactive documentary filmmaking to produce content that makes her research accessible to a youth audience.
Early mythologies of the internet, predicated on Western ontologies of mind-body dualism, naively framed it as a space that would “liberate” users from their physical markers of race, gender, sexuality, class and ability. This aspiration has, however, proved to be nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to discard difference through the assertion of the unmarked Universal subject – always already white, male, cis, straight, middle-class and able-bodied. Informed by club culture, queer gender performance, social media aesthetics and formal training in circus and dance, Décary-Chen deploys her body as the central tool for sense-making in the realm of the digital. Through the construction of an immersive installation composed of the research materials that inform her design process, Décary-Chen invites us back into our bodies, refusing to discard the wisdom of the corporeal in the search for more ethical AI futures.
Décary-Chen’s practice is rooted in what we might call ‘anarcho-computation’ – rather than seeking to ‘fix’ the biases embedded within corporately governed digital systems, she deploys her technical knowledge to break these harmful systems apart in order to reimagine futures from the detritus left in the aftermath of their annihilation. For Décary-Chen, our present moment is marked by the experience of “drowning in an infinite sea of computational power.” Gentle Bot Seeks Same is a lifeboat, enabling us to surf the waves of the here and now towards a horizon beyond the quagmire of technology in the age of platform capitalism.” – Lucas LaRochelle
Liane Décary-Chen is an artist and creative technologist working in digital media and cultural intervention.
Lucas LaRochelle is a multidisciplinary designer, artist and researcher whose work is concerned with queer geographies, critical internet studies, and community-based archiving.
The artist thanks Alessandra C. Bioli, Jules Galbraith, Alex Nawotka, Tariq Jamal, calasmico for their support in the process of the residency.